Five Surprises at my High School Reunion

I told a similarly-minded friend my senior year, “I don’t think I’ll be going to our high school reunions.”

It was a rough year, characterized by the dissolution of my best friendship, uninspiring classes, lack of a dating life, and preparation for major life shifts like moving states and starting college. I wasn’t like I am now. I was scared of change, back then.

In any case I was so over high school and I thought I’d never want to revisit it again.

College, though with challenges of its own, was at least freedom. Much better than high school.

Then came marriage and years of global travel and exploration, and a baby. Each experience added to and surpassed the last.

I certainly didn’t miss high school and yet, when the ten year reunion was announced, I felt conflicted.

I think I want to go to this thing.

But why?

I guess it just came down to curiosity.

I wanted to understand where I’ve been. I wanted to travel…back in time.

I feel like a completely different person than I was in high school. I wanted to see these people after growing up.

When I showed up with Jacob at the reunion I soon discovered I knew almost none of the people there.

I think (I hope) it would be different now.

Travel, and college, have helped me to become comfortable enough in my own skin to reach out to people.

When we signed up the people at the desk, neither of whom I knew, said a certain girl who was helping to prepare the reunion said how much she loved me. Really? I said. I love her too!

Surprise #1: Some of the people I liked in high school but who were not close friends actually liked me back.

hs reunionJacob asked who the quarterback of the football team was and then promptly put that name on his name tag. Except no one seemed to know who it was. That’s because the people I was friends with tended to not be the type who went to football games.

I sat with some of the conservative Christians—people who I felt were polar opposites from me in high school, now who no longer make me feel threatened. They are good people with convictions. And I know now that we actually have very similar backgrounds.

The majority who came to the reunion were the group of people I thought of as “the preppies”—the athletic folks. I never interacted with these people at all. They didn’t normally take honors classes, and I didn’t even think about doing anything sports-related. I mostly ran with the music/drama crowd, or the Mormon crowd, or the alternative crowd. Almost no one from those groups were represented at the reunion.


Surprise #2: There were several people there who I unexpectedly was genuinely glad to see again after all these years.

Surprise #3: Someone told me:  “You know, I was always a loner.” I had thought of her as a social butterfly. So I realized that: High school was an awkward time for a lot of people out there. We were all growing into our skin. Some of us just hid it better than others.


Surprise #4: Although I ultimately didn’t know many people in high school, I’m proud of the friends I did make. When I started high school, I was so impossibly shy and awkward. I didn’t know how to wear makeup or dress fashionably. I never went to parties. I didn’t know how to dance. I lived in a world of books. Somehow, though, I made social friends who got me out of my shell.

We won a prize: for furthest traveled from (Bali). Someone else won most cities lived at six. Jacob went up to complain. I think they may not have believed our answer (50.)

Then my friends showed up. Wild, and the life of the party. I went out on the dance floor to join them.

Almost no one else was dancing. It reminded me of prom, how no one danced and instead everyone gambled.

I thought that was lame then, and I thought it was lame now.

My friends know how to have a good time. It had been years, but we slipped into our craziness like no time had passed at all.

Surprise #5: Even though my best friends from high school and I had parted ways in many respects my senior year, choosing different life paths etc etc, it became clear that there were reasons we were friends in the first place, even after all this time. Because they’re FUN, and we’re fun together.

hs friends

We took a limo to the after-party down the street. When we got there, neither Jacob nor I had our IDs so we couldn’t get in. This is a typical experience for me. I never have my ID. I didn’t mind the excuse to go home though, because I was exhausted after days of traveling and a bout of a mysterious illness.

Everyone said don’t go to your high school reunion.

I had every reason not to go. I wouldn’t know many people there, it was out of the way, and inconvenient. It was almost cancelled due to lack of interest.

But I’m glad I went.

In high school, your self esteem is based on what everyone else thinks of you. Your self-identity is in constant flux.

Ten years later, you look at the “in crowd” and you realize they are just people too, neither better nor worse than you.

For me high school was often boring, or lonely, and sometimes I struggled—at not fitting in as an unconventional person, or at obeying rules and following orders that made little sense to me. Other times, I really loved it—like the music program, and the debate program, where I was free to excel under less rigid parameters.

I’m proud of where I am now, and I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t been where I was.

Go to your high school reunion. You might be surprised.

Kalli Hiller

Article by Kalli Hiller

Kalli Hiller is a voluntary vagabond who, with her husband Jacob, has traveled full time for the last eight years.

Kalli has written 371 awesome articles for us.

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